14 Expectation versus Reality: Supporting Students Through Self-Discovery in Co-op


Lindsay Byers & John Daggett, Georgian College
This session will discuss the results of a new initiative to compare student work term expectations in the beginning of their program, with actual work term experiences. We will examine data compiled from a student completed needs assessment at the beginning of semester one, completed by co -op students in the Hospitality and Tourism program area. This data will be compared to students’ actual work integrated learning experience for work term one and discussed for themes, and unique take-aways. We will examine the potential influences contributing to student expectations and choice of work term and the student decision making process throughout their first year of studies.

  • College
  • Career
  • Co-op
  • Hospitality
  • Student
  • Development
  • Travel
  • Learning
  • Expectations
  • Reality



Lindsay Byers, Georgian College
Lindsay Byers is the Co-op Consultant-Student Developer for Georgian College’s Hospitality, Tourism, Culinary, Recreation, Golf, Ski, and Museum and Gallery Studies programs. She has been a Co-op Consultant with the School of Hospitality & Tourism since 2013, but has been at Georgian since 2003 where she started as a co-op student. She has worked in several areas of Georgian College including Human Resource Services and International Education & Training. Lindsay is a graduate of Queen’s University, Conestoga and Georgian College and understands how important industry experience is for post-secondary students. She enjoys watching students succeed in the workplace and teaching the Co-op and Career Preparation course to help students prepare for the world of work both on their co-op/internship, and as graduates.

John Daggett, Georgian College
John is the Co-op Consultant – Employer Development for Georgian College’s Hospitality, Tourism, Culinary, Recreation, Golf, Ski, and Museum and Gallery Studies programs. John’s role is to support student’s co-op semester(s) with regards to posting and developing employment opportunities alongside them while taking into consideration past experiences and future career plans. John has been working with Georgian College co-op students since 2003. Before that, he worked with Centennial College in Toronto helping students to find their career path. He has assisted at-risk youth with making life changing decisions, helped high school students make the jump to post-secondary schooling, provided career guidance to Generation X’ers, and assisted new comers to Canada with academic accreditation and access to professional associations. Most recently he has focused his energy on “Generational Understanding” with today’s millennial students. John is also the Head Men’s Varsity Rugby Coach at Georgian College and when he’s not meeting with employers, you might find him on the rugby field working with Georgian College’s athletes.



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Key Findings

  • Although initially, students were excited about possible relocation for co-op, they were not willing to put in the time and energy to pursue those opportunities – OR – self sabotaged the opportunity
  • General research into the industry and possible pathways was overall very limited for most students
  • Students not looking at Co-op as a step in their career – “I just need a diploma and then my career will start.”
  • Unrealistic salary expectations
  • There is a great deal of students who wait until the last minute to seek jobs for co-op – Reactive vs. Proactive
  • Information sourced from peer groups is a huge factor particularly with international students (for all things co-op)
  • International students are, for the most part, more willing to relocate for co-op work but seem to prefer to travel in groups
  • A lack of students sourcing out professional help and as a result being misinformed “My friend told me,” and “Everyone is doing this.”
  • Although it is easier than ever to research locations and employers, the buy-in from students is lower than in past years/anticipated
  • Students working away from home were seeking an ‘All-Inclusive” package for their work terms (fixed terms vs. variable terms)
  • Reported anxiety levels are high amongst our student population (tests, interviews, social, general, etc.) Is it anxiety or just anxiousness/nervousness?

Next Steps

  • Amp up our Industry Research & Informational Interviews assignment as part of the Co-op / Career course – mandatory vs. optional assignment and for them to do it twice (once at the beginning of the term and once in the second semester as industry knowledge grows)
  • Add more networking events and guest speakers to introduce new students to recent grads in the industry – Targeted – program and geographically specific
  • Encourage faculty to include us on more industry specific field trips
  • Reinforce that co-op is a vital stepping stone towards their career
  • Ensure students know that it is ‘okay to stay close to home’
  • Reiterate student support services on and off campus for students experiencing mental health issues (anxiety)
  • Work with our Advisory Committee to help as well as Employers who want access to our students.  Set up formal ‘mock interviews’ for students to have a clear picture of what and how to prepare (interview anxiety).  WIN for the students
  • Collaborate with Accessibility Advisors and Counselors to ensure student has more holistic support both prior to and during their work term – strategies on disclosure
  • Set up extra International student workshops
  • Designate a “Drop In” day once per week as students seem to have difficulty booking appointments.  Bring a friend
  • Continue to ask questions!

Implications for Career Education

  • To better understand where they were coming from and the direction they wanted their career to go
  • The better we can understand students, the better we can support them
  • Understanding student parameters helps in job development
  • Need to grasp not only the types of employment students were seeking but also where we should focus our efforts geographically


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